Our 10 Favorite Spicy Dishes in Metro Phoenix
It was a heat-seeking mission -- and a dangerous one. Chow Bella's contributors dispersed through the Valley, in search of the hottest, tastiest and most creative spicy culinary offerings. Read on at your risk.
10. Jerk Chicken at A Taste of the Caribbean
When you think spicy food, Mexican food and a variety of Asian dishes come to mind, but what really sets my mouth ablaze is jerk chicken. Taste of the Caribbean's signature dish is hands down some of the spiciest fare I've ever tasted. Whatever blend of chiles they use in the Jamaican jerk seasoning, it brings the heat. Succulent juicy chicken rubbed in allspice, cinnamon, thyme, cloves, and their secret blend of chiles routinely has me sweating like a whore in church, but I keep going back for more. Snag a cooling glass of sorrel while you're there. The hibiscus flower beverage studded with cloves helps cool the jerk chicken fire. -- Erica O'Neil
9. Evil Jungle Noodles at Thai Rama
Thai Rama's Evil Jungle Noodles offers a choice of meats (I like the shrimp) with tons of veggies and rice noodles in a firey coconut and chili broth. At Thai Rama the servers ask you (for any dish) if you would like Mild, Medium, Hot or Thai Hot 1-5. In other words, the five levels of Thai hot begin where American hot ends. If you do not specify, the Evil Jungle Noodle dish comes out as a Thai hot 1. This level of hot gives me a light sweat, yet still allows the flavors of the other ingredients to shine. The basil, bell peppers, and sweet coconut flavors are detectible and intensified. I've had many super spicy dishes that burn the flavors right out of everything else in the bowl, but this is well done. They offer a $1 draft beer (Kirin or Sapporo) that helps cool the mouth off. The best part about this broth (what Anthony Bourdain would call a hellbroth) is that upon leaving the air conditioned building to go out in the 115 degree Arizona heat, you don't feel quite as hot. -- Michelle Martinez
8. Soondobo at Chodang
Soondobo is a ridiculously spicy stew that looks nothing if not like a bowl of molten lava with chunks of tofu and beef poking through the bumbling surface. Chodang in Chandler serves several varieties of this popular dish, including one that is seafood based. Accompanying each bowl is a stone pot of fresh rice and at least six different pickled sides. The best way to consume soondobo is with a spoon, taking a bit of rice and drowning it in a spoonful of stew. The sides are there to comfort your palate in between thermonuclear hot mouthfuls of stew and rice. -- Ando Muneno
7. Papaya Salad at Lemon Grass Thai Cafe
Forget about the curry and pad Thai, the spiciest Thai dish I've ever tasted is the meek-sounding papaya salad from Lemon Grass Thai Cafe in Tempe. First off, it's not the ripe tropical fruit that you think it is. Thai papaya salad (som-tum) is made with shredded green papaya and mixed with tiny salty shrimp, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and a tangy lime dressing. Sounds refreshing, right? Wrong. Lemon Grass takes this refreshing combination and lights it afire with a blend of chiles that even had our native Thai dinner guests sweating. I now know what "Thai hot" tastes like: fire. -- Erica O'Neil
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.